The DEADLY SOUTHERN CHARM Authors Talk Writing, Mysteries, and Pets

My pals from the Deadly Southern Charm mystery anthology are my guests today.  Please welcome, Lynn Cahoon, Frances Aylor, Kristin Kisska, J.A. Chalkley, and Stacie Giles. They’re here to talk about writing, books, their pets, and our new anthology.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?

 Heather: We have two crazy Jack Russell Terriers, Disney and Riley. They’re from the same litter, and they keep us on our toes.

Lynn: Right now, our house is a little quiet. We lost our long-time companions, Homer (14) and Demon (19) in January of this year. They were Pomeranians. Homer was attacked by neighbor dogs in HIS yard and Demon decided it was his time a few weeks later. So it’s just Thor right now. He’s my way too tall cat. But next week, we’re getting two new puppies –Keeshonds. Dexter and Quinn.

Frances: Over the years I’ve owned a cocker spaniel, a labrador retriever, five cats, several goldfish and a hamster. The lab was a frisky, high-spirited dog that I took to obedience school so I could learn to manage him. While there I saw two beautiful, well-trained German shepherds. The German shepherd puppy in my thriller Money Grab combines the beauty of those dogs with the friskiness of my lab.

Kristin: I’m sorry to report that I don’t have any pets at present—not for want of loving them! That said, I drew on my experience horseback riding English saddle, both as a teen and an adult, to write my short story, “Unbridled.”

J.A.: I don’t have any pets at the moment. My last pet was a border collie mix named Woody. He was a rescue, and I later found out he had a brother named Cowboy.

Stacie: I grew up with a “guard” chihuahua named Taffie who used to boss all the neighborhood dogs and cats, including our other pets. Taffie and I were so close that my parents kept her death during my freshman year of college from me for weeks, thinking it would make living away from home too hard for me! I still miss the first dog I had as an adult, D’Artagnan–we called him D’Art–who was loving and lively, and would play fetch for hours. Now I enjoy an aging Staffordshire Terrier named Tinkerbell who patiently follows me everywhere, and endures the teasing of our cat who simply cannot leave poor Tinkerbell alone.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?

 Heather: Most of my short stories and novels have animals. In my Delanie Fitzgerald series, Margaret, the English bulldog is a fixture in the private eye’s office. She’s a brown and white log with legs. I partnered with three other dogs on a novella project, To Fetch a Thief. My story is “Diggin’ up Dirt,” and it features a JRT named Darby who was based on my dog, Disney.

Lynn: Of course! Emma is Jill’s Golden Retriever in the Tourist Trap series. She even found a missing boy in an early book. Cat Latimer just got a barn cat and four kittens in book four of the series. And Angie from the Farm to Fork series has Dom – a St Bernard, Precious – a goat, and Mabel – the last remaining hen from Nona’s flock.

Frances: Webster is a German Shepherd puppy in my thriller Money Grab. He’s purchased by one of the characters as a guard dog, but his care and maintenance fall to the wife, who’s not a pet person. My main character Robbie later adopts the dog and considers him a faithful companion. He will be a recurring character in future novels.

 Kristin: I’ve only ever featured animals in one of my stories, “Unbridled.” The three show horses—Bay, D’artagnan, and Spade—all board at the same equestrian center in South Carolina’s Low Country. As readers soon find out, they are as commanding as their rider/owners.

J.A.: I’ve been working on a detective novel where the lead character owns two tabby cats, named Lenny and Squiggy. I’m telling my age with that reference.

Stacie: As I develop my main character, I plan for her to have a Siamese cat named Loopy who is almost preternaturally attuned to Vera’s recurrent migraines.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

 Heather: I am working on a cozy mystery novel, and it features a Jack Russell Terrier named Bijou. I am also working on a dog mystery for the second Mutt Mysteries series. It features a Rottweiler named Oscar, and the story’s called “The Fast and the Furriest.”

Lynn: As I write this, I’m working on book 4 of the Farm to Fork mystery series. The working title is DEATH ON A STICK. It’s set in my home state of Idaho and I love writing a late summer weather scene while the snow outside my window keeps getting deeper. After that, I’m doing my first Farm to Fork Novella which will have snow, but maybe I won’t be so sick of it by then.

Frances: I’m finishing up the second book in the Robbie Bradford mystery series. In this one, Robbie goes to Switzerland with a client, to help her manage some issues with family money. The third book will be set in either Egypt or Jordan, both of which I recently visited. I’m also working on financial presentations for various groups, to give people guidance on how to manage their money.

Kristin: I’m polishing my second suspense novel, which is a quest for a missing Faberge Egg throughout Prague and other Central European cities. I’m also in the process of drafting my third novel, a domestic suspense, which features Lulu the tabby cat.

J.A.: I’m working on a short story for a sci fi/fantasy magazine submission

Stacie: Actually, I am currently working on a nonfiction project, a college-level online resource on the United States Intelligence Community, drawing on my background as a CIA analyst. I’m also trying to hone my fiction writing skills and develop a series of short stories set in Memphis, Tennessee from 1920 through the 1960s in which Vera and her policeman cousin Burnell navigate the turbulent social changes of the time while solving crimes in a way that is both merciful and just.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

 Heather: My Jack Russell Terrier Riley has a thing for paper. One day, I set my open purse on the floor next to my desk while I was working. When I got up, I noticed the ATM receipt for $40 was wet and on the floor. Curious, I rummaged through my purse. Riley had pulled it out along with a twenty. He ate one of my twenty-dollar bills.

Lynn: Thor (the cat) liked to hide behind the television when the dogs went out first thing in the morning. Then he’d pop out and stand on his hide legs and pretend to be an attacking bear. One morning, Homer wasn’t having it. He bulldozed the cat into the television stand, then went to stand by the door waiting for us to let him out. Thor stopped playing that game after that.

Frances: When I was a child, we visited a family friend whose dog had recently had puppies. When my parents got ready to leave, they found me sitting on the floor in the utility room, with all five puppies lying on my outstretched legs, determined that I was going to take them home with me. My dad convinced me that the pups were too young to leave their mother, but promised I could come back later and pick out one for myself. That cocker spaniel puppy and I grew up together.

 J.A.: We adopted Woody for my son, who was seven at the time. They grew up together. Woody would listen to everyone, but my son. Woody wasn’t allowed on the bed, yeah that rule didn’t last long. When he heard our bedroom door close at night, he would jump on my son’s bed. Anytime he heard the door open he’d jump down and play innocent.

Stacie: My children were young when hyperactive D’Art joined our family. The kids would put on roller skates to take him on “walks” which were really mad careening around the neighborhood! They could only stop by collapsing on the lawn or, occasionally, running into a tree!

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Heather: There are two dog beds on either side of my desk in the office. They nap mostly while I’m writing or editing. Sometimes, they help with plotting.

Lynn: Thor sleeps on my desk. I’m hoping the new puppies will hang out under my desk. (As long as they don’t chew on the cords.)

Frances: My lab was an outdoor dog who enjoyed exploring the woods behind our house.

 Kristin: Oh, I wish I had a cat. If it were like my previous fur babies, it would ignore me actively until I tried to pet it, then shun me. Is there anything more divine than purring???

Stacie: Tinkerbell lies on the floor just outside the open door of my office. She seems to feel she is guarding me. The cat Azzie has to climb on my lap or, if I’m standing up using my sit/stand desk, he’ll reach up and claw my legs until I pick him up and let him investigate what I’m doing. Once satisfied, he’ll curl up in a comfy chair near me and snooze.

What’s the most unusual pet you’ve ever had?

 Heather: I grew up in a suburban house. We had a couple of gold fish over the years. My dad, a 46-year veteran of the Virginia Beach Police force, had a police dog once. I didn’t have dogs until I moved out.

Lynn: I had a grey cheek parakeet once. She was part of a breeding pair. She didn’t like men. So she’d bite me every time my husband or my son would come close. But she did like drinking Coke out of the lip of my Coke can.

Frances: We once had an aquarium filled with exotic fish. I especially liked the neon tetras, the angelfish, and the whiskery catfish.

Kristin: My family had lots of pets while I grew up, from dogs and cats, to fish, birds, and gerbils. The most unique pet, though, was our ferret, Bartles.

J.A.: I didn’t grow up on a farm, but somehow we always seemed to have farm animals. Over the years there were chickens, calves that needed to be bottle feed till they were big enough to release into pasture, and goats. My mother loved goats. We had at least one for years. There were dogs, cats, hamsters and for a brief period rabbits.

Stacie: We had some geckos when we lived in Hawaii. They were amusing to watch climb the walls and ceilings! But it wasn’t amusing when my husband brought home flying cockroaches from work to feed them! Of course, the cockroaches got away. Sigh.

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?

Heather: Writing is a business. You need to treat it like that. It includes a lot of record-keeping and marketing. You also need to guard your writing time. There are so many distractions and obligations. You really do need a writing schedule.

Lynn: It’s okay to stand up for what you want and how you want your book to look. You can’t wait for the muse to hit to write. Set a word count and meet it. Otherwise, the book won’t rise to the top of your to do pile. I write first because I’m better in the morning and I don’t write well late at night. Your mileage may vary.

Frances: Writing a novel takes so much longer than I thought it would. I have to schedule a time to write each day; otherwise, other projects intrude on my time. Marketing a book is even more time consuming. Mastering social media is a continuing challenge.

Kristin: I wish I’d known that once I type The End, an author is really only a third the way through the publishing process. The next third is revising and editing, and the last third is publishing/marketing the work (of course, while working through the next project). Also, many words can be written before sunrise. Use your time wisely!

J.A.: Writing is hard work. Not just the writing, but the business side of it.

Stacie: Well, I truly am just starting in fiction writing now. One thing I already know from my nonfiction work, however, is that writing takes rewriting, and rewriting, and double checking, and rewriting some more!

Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why?

Heather: I love to write at the beach when we’re visiting. I grew up in Virginia Beach, and I miss the ocean. When at home, I love to write on my deck on sunny days.

Lynn: I love writing at my desk because I have a desktop with a 32-inch screen. But I can and do write anywhere. Reading, I need good light. My favorite place to get story now is during my commute in my car.

Frances: Most of the time I write on my laptop at my office desk. In warm weather, I take the laptop out to the gazebo. Most of my reading is done in bed at night, just before I go to sleep.

Kristin: I get my best writing done in my silent, quiet writers cave at home. Even better, when everyone in my family is either asleep or away. Reading, however, I can do absolutely anywhere, but my favorite place is in a bookstore café.

J.A.: I have an office space set up in my she cave at home. It’s quiet and comfort.

Stacie: I am happy as a clam to read wherever I am! But for writing, I prefer my office, where I’m surrounded by all the things I need – all kinds of materials and, most importantly, a comfy chair and a lovely view out the window when I need to clear my head!

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?

Heather: Be persistent. Don’t give up. Writing and publishing are hard. You need to keep at it.

Lynn: Make sure it’s really what you want to do. You spend way too much time working and alone for it to be just a whim.

Frances: Know why you want to write. This is a very competitive business. If you’re writing to be rich and famous, perhaps you should pick another line of work. If you’re writing because you have stories you want to share with others, then stick with it.

 Kristin: The only requirement for being a writer is to actually write. All other rules you hear are merely suggestions and guidelines. It also helps if you read a lot, too. Good luck!

J.A.: Read a lot. Find authors who’s style you like and study it. Figure out why you like it. In the beginning you may find yourself imitating other writers, but with time you’ll find your own style.

Stacie: Remember that writing is fundamentally a solitary endeavor. You can and should make lots of connections with other writers and readers, but most of your time must be devoted to writing, something no one else can do with you. You’re on your own! Make sure you’re happy with the solitude.

Heather Weidner
Lynn Cahoon
Frances Aylor
Kristin Kisska
J. A. Chalkley
Stacie Giles

About Us

Frances Aylor, CFA combines her investing experience and love of travel in her financial thrillers. MONEY GRAB is the first in the series. www.francesaylor.com

Lynn Cahoon is the NYT and USA Today author of the best-selling Tourist Trap, Cat Latimer and Farm-to-Fork mystery series. www.lynncahoon.com

 J. A. Chalkley is a native Virginian. She is a writer, retired public safety communications officer, and a member of Sisters in Crime.

Stacie Giles, after a career as a political scientist, linguist, and CIA analyst, is now writing historical cozies with a twist.  Her first short story is in honor of her grandfather who was a policeman in Memphis in the 1920s.

Kristin Kisska is a member of International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime, and programs chair of the Sisters in Crime – Central Virginia chapter. www.kristinkisska.com

Heather Weidner is the author of the Delanie Fitzgerald Mysteries. She has short stories in the Virginia is for Mysteries series, 50 SHADES OF CABERNET and TO FETCH A THIEF. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and Jack Russell terriers. www.heatherweidner.com

Let’s Be Social

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LethalLadiesWrite/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LethalLadiesCVA?lang=en

Website: https://www.sistersincrimecentralvirginia.com/anthologies

Book Links

Wildside: http://wildsidepress.com/deadly-southern-charm-a-lethal-ladies-mystery-anthology-edited-by-mary-burton-and-mary-miley-paperback/

Wildside eBook: http://wildsidepress.com/deadly-southern-charm-a-lethal-ladies-mystery-anthology-edited-by-mary-burton-and-mary-miley-epub-kindle-pdf/?ctk=92a212b3-7ff7-473d-a5dd-78ab99163c27

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Deadly-Southern-Charm-Mystery-Anthology/dp/1479448397

 

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Travels with Shammy

By Maggie King

Have you ever traveled with a cat? I don’t mean those horrendous drives to the vet with a shrieking animal in the back seat. I’m talking about soaring above the clouds, “flying the friendly skies,” with your favorite feline tucked under the seat in front of you. While you relax and sip your Cabernet, you feed tidbits to little [insert cat’s name here]. All is well.

Shammy was a sweet and glam calico cat who liked traveling. In the car, I’d let her out of her carrier and she’d gaze out the window, enjoying the passing scenery through the Antelope Valley of Southern California. Sometimes she’d crawl under the seats and get under my feet as I drove—not a good thing.

When Glen and I moved from California to Virginia in 1996, we had many things to consider (where to live, were to work, etc.). But the most pressing concern: how to get Shammy cross country. Sure, she enjoyed being a car passenger—but would she like it for three days in a car loaded up with our possessions? And the overnight stops at strange motels?

We came up with the purr-fect solution: Glen would drive the packed car and sleep in the strange motels. I would ship my car, leaving Shammy and me to travel in style, by air.

I learned that I didn’t have to put Shammy in cargo; she could accompany me in the cabin. I purchased a special carrier that would fit under the seat. The vet dispensed tranquilizers. We were all set.

At security, the TSA agent demanded that I take Shammy out of the carrier. If I’d anticipated this (this was pre-911 times) I would have brought a leash. I maintained the tightest of grips on Shammy until we made it through security and I could return her to the carrier.

On board, I braced myself for loud complaints from allergy-ridden passengers. Thankfully, the plane wasn’t full, and Shammy and I had three seats to ourselves. No one complained, in fact everyone was kind and asked how she was doing.

How was Shammy doing?

Anxious, bewildered, awake—those adjectives suffice to describe her state. I expected the tranquilizer to make her drowsy, but she remained hyper alert for the duration. She couldn’t stand up in the carrier that had to meet size regulations for under seat storage. Thankfully, she was quiet, and endured it all with her customary dignity.

And how was I doing?

I suspect that Shammy fared better than I did. I found the whole ordeal nerve-wracking to say the least. Mostly because of my concern for Shammy and not knowing what to expect from one minute to the next. Sure, we soared above the clouds, “flying the friendly skies.” But relaxing it wasn’t. As for tempting Shammy with tidbits . . . let’s just say she resisted temptation.

Minutes before boarding after a stopover in Baltimore, the heavens opened. Problematic, as we had to walk outside to board the puddle jumper that would take us to Charlottesville. A kind young man in an airport shop gave me two large plastic bags. I covered Shammy’s carrier with one, and draped the other over my head and shoulders. We dashed to the plane and boarded, Shammy completely dry, me only slightly damp.

Once in Charlottesville, we took a cab to pick up my car and headed for the motel where I had a reservation. The next day I got the keys to the apartment where we were to live for three months while we looked for a permanent home. Glen arrived four days later.

Shammy didn’t eat or use the litter box for a couple of days. After that, she loved the place. Squirrels, chipmunks, and birds came right up to the patio door where she parked herself 24/7. Occasionally she and a cat had a hissing contest.

That wraps up “Travels with Shammy.” Shammy crossed the rainbow bridge in 2002. When the Albemarle County (Charlottesville) SPCA built a new facility, Glen and I purchased a brick and dedicated it to our special friend: “Shammy King, in our hearts.”

In my Hazel Rose Book Group series, Hazel’s backstory reveals that her beautiful calico cat named Shammy accompanied her when she moved from Los Angeles to the east coast and settled in Richmond, Virginia.

Shammy lives on, in our hearts … and on the page.

Shammy has appeared in Pens, Paws, and Claws before. Read it here.

 

Maggie King is the author of the Hazel Rose Book Group mysteries, including Murder at the Book Group and Murder at the Moonshine Inn. Her short stories appear in Deadly Southern Charm, Virginia is for Mysteries (Vols. 1&2), and 50 Shades of Cabernet.

Maggie is a member of Sisters in Crime, James River Writers, and the American Association of University Women. She has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor. Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive. She enjoys reading, walking, movies, traveling, theatre, and museums.

Website: www.maggieking.com

Facebook: MaggieKingAuthor

Twitter: MaggieKingAuthr

Instagram: authormaggieking

Amazon: Maggie’s Amazon Author Page

 

 

 

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Welcome Back, Susan Schwartz!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, Susan Schwartz and her kitties back to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing:

I began writing in 2006 with freelance articles. I wrote on all sorts of topics and researched these pieces thoroughly. I made some money, but I was more interested in fiction writing. I joined the Virginia Writers Club and started learning how to write with style. I found good mentors and people who wanted to help me succeed. I took over leadership of the club for two years giving back to the writing community and helping to mentor a few new writers.

I have been an Operating Room Nurse for 19 years. As you can imagine, I see many interesting and gory things while working. I channel many of those sights and sounds into my stories. I love blood and guts, and I tend to write stories where people are getting killed or maimed in some fashion. I also try to write them with a twist making you wonder what hit you at the end. I have enjoyed this genre immensely because of its ability to lead the reader into something they were not expecting.

I have three short stories published at present in the Nightmares & Echoes series. They are “The Sparkling Floor,” “I Thought You Did,” and “Blurred Line.  “Blurred Line” was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award in Long Fiction by the Horror Writers Association in 2016. My non-fiction piece in the Virginia Writers Club Centennial Anthology is titled “Using my Karate Chops in Nursing.” Paranormal Encounters just came out in March 2019. I also have a non-fiction book coming in May 2019 titled Haunted Charlottesville and Surrounding Counties. In addition, another haunted book is being published October 2019.

Please check out my website to see future happenings and new books coming out soon. https://www.susanschwartzauthor.com.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for your writing?

I have had up to 14 feral cats in the past. I also took care of a baby squirrel for several days and a silverback bat. We just lost the last one, Mr. Imp, in 2015. At present, we have two kitties, Speck & Manchego. We have multiple fish tanks, and we also love on one leopard gecko named Zoey.

I do not use them in my writing, but Zoey likes to help me write sometimes. She loves to write about cricket murder mysteries.

Here are some of our fishies:

Our eel, Houdini:

My three blood parrots (Sebastian, Scar, and Pierre) and pleco (Zeke), I sent this out as a Christmas picture one year because they apparently were singing along with the carols:

What are you reading now?

I tend to read three to four books at once. My list at present consists of:

Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly. It is the 2nd book in his Late Show series, but this one places Ballard and Bosch together for some crazy good fun.

 Macrame Murder by my great friend, Mollie Cox Bryan. She is a very sweet lady and an awesome writer of cozy mysteries.

 Italian Iced by Kylie Logan. Loving Italian cuisine and goodies, this one just piqued my interest with the title.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am starting to research for another haunted book on another section of Virginia. I just had two stories come out in Paranormal Encounters in March. I have a paranormal romance novel that I have been working on for several years that I want to finish. I also have about six short stories in the works for a couple anthologies and just from pleasure writing.

Who is your favorite author and why?

For horror influences, I look to Stephen King and Bentley Little. The medical drama comes from Michael Palmer and Robin Cook. For general fiction, I like David Baldacci, Brad Parks, and Michael Connelly.

All of these produce a great story with plenty of red herrings to make you think something else is going to happen. Then they let slip that crucial detail that spends everything around and just leaves you so confused.

What ‘s your favorite book or movie that had an animal as a central character? Why?

Milo and Otis was definitely a favorite with the dog and the cat. I also so loved Homeward Bound. The voiceovers in both movies were simply the best. It always makes me wonder now when my cats are looking at me what they are thinking.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know?

I started writing back in 2003 doing fanfic for several TV shows I watched at the time. They weren’t really great stories, but mainly continuations of what I thought should have happened. I really enjoyed writing the different views on some of the characters. Once these got some comments, I started wondering if I could write longer and more in-depth pieces. I am happy to say I can and I do.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

Manchego and Speck are normally chasing each other back and forth through the house. Manchego is around 18 months old, and we rescued her off the street on a cold winter’s night at the age of about two months. We found Speck at the Goochland Animal Shelter to help Manchego get over her separation anxiety. Speck is around nine months old, and he has been a welcome addition to the family. Although it did take about two weeks for Manchego to warm up to him.

What’s the most unusual pet you’ve ever had?

I thought about this one. These weren’t really pets, but I took care of them for a length of time. We had a baby squirrel named Lucky that had fallen out of his nest, and his mother never came to find him. My father, knowing my love of animals, called me to come get him and take care of him. It was a fun experience for about four days until we found a Wildlife Rehabilitator that would take him. Fun Fact: Squirrels are lactose-intolerant.

The second unusual animal we loved on was a Silverback Bat. This guy had fallen on our front porch and didn’t move. We were worried he was dead. We got a plastic container, much like the ones we kept crickets in for our gecko, and scooped him up with it. Over time, he started to move by hopping, so we named him Scooter. We also took care of him for several days until we could find a Bat Rehabilitator in the area. We discovered that he had burned up one wing. If he couldn’t fly, he couldn’t hunt for food. Sadly, he passed away a couple days later. I still have fond memories of him though, and I love to walk at dusk to see the bats flying. Fun Fact: Bats look just like puppy dogs in the face. Check out some pictures.

What advice would you give someone who wants to be a writer?

The best advice given to me by many authors in different genres is to read that which you are trying to write. The greats in this genre, such as Stephen King, Bentley Little, and Richard Laymon, have shown me how to write and what people are looking for when they read this genre. Stephen King also wrote a book, On Writing, which has helped me a great deal as well.

Write what you know and love. Writing becomes much easier when you know where you want to go with a particular piece. I always know the ending. I leave my title for when I finish because you want to write a great story, and then finish it with a title that encompasses all that is inside.

Don’t stop because someone told you No. This just means you have to go another way instead of the path you are taking. Keep trying and don’t give up. You can do it!

About Susan

I have been an avid writer for around 13 years doing everything from writing freelance articles to editing manuscripts for other authors. I also love to write horror stories that have a twist at the end.

My alter ego is an Operating Room Nurse/Nurse Educator who loves creating tales from the interesting and weird things I have seen. I am a member of the Horror Writers Association and the Virginia Writers Club where I serve as President of the Richmond Chapter and 1st Vice-President of the state organization. I have two novels in the works, a paranormal romance and a medical thriller. My non-fiction book, Haunted Charlottesville, is being released in May 2019.

Please see my website for more info: www.susanschwartzauthor.com

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Do Your Pets Have Spring Fever?

 

It’s spring here on Long Island, and my cats have been bursting with energy, especially my eight-month old kittens, Harry and Hermione. My ten-year old, Stripey, is also more active than usual. As indoor pets, they are spending more time looking out at the birds and other signs of spring outside our windows. They are also getting into more mischief around the house.

Harry has been stretching his legs by jumping on top of our kitchen counters. This has resulted in his knocking down some pans that make loud noises and have him scurrying from the scene of the crime.

Hermione has taken to shredding paper towels and turning off the power button on my computer.

Have your pets been getting into more mischief  with the  change of the seasons?
Check out this article by Jane A. Kelley from Catster.com and see if your cats are exhibiting any spring fever symptoms. https://www.catster.com/lifestyle/7-symptoms-feline-spring-fever-cat-behavior

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Cute Pet Memes to Make You Laugh

Need a good laugh? Who doesn’t? The world‘s a troubling place.

That’s where cute pets come to the rescue. Pet your cat, dog, ferret, hamster—and enjoy them. They give us such joy, comfort, and happiness. Ever notice how they make us smile even when they’re not doing anything?

 

From Bobbi Hanson’s Pinterest board

 

But maybe you don’t/can’t have pets. Or you’re at work and the minutes to quitting time are going oh-so-slowly. Or you just can’t get enough cuteness in your life.

Enjoy a few of my favorite cute pet pictures and memes. If you’re on Facebook and/or Pinterest, you’ve probably seen some of these countless times, but they’re always good for a belly laugh.

From lolzombie.com

 

This is my Olive to a T:

From Homer Blind WonderCat

 

From Greenleafpets.com

 

We’re not as evolved as we think:

From Photobucket

 

Dogs helping writers?

From Jeff Stahler, dist. by UFS, Inc.

 

Just in from Jim Callan

 

Waiting for treats

Disney & Riley
Olive and Morris

 

Ready to ditch the politics and spend your days laughing at cute pet videos, memes, and pictures on social media? You’ll have no trouble finding them. Start with these:

Homer Blind WonderCat

Dog Memes

Funny Pets on YouTube

Funny Pets on Pinterest

Funny Pets on Facebook

Tell us your favorites.

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Welcome, Elizabeth Moldovan!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author, Elizabeth Moldovan to the blog.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Hi, my name is Elizabeth, and I recently published my life story only to help other people who struggle with drug use. I have 5 children, and the youngest is 15. I love gardening, drawing and painting, cooking and minding my granddaughter 2 days a week.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?

During the years it took for me to write my book, we adopted a dog that had been abused prior to her coming to live in our home. Shortly after we found out that she was going to have puppies and she gave birth to 7, in the corner of our kitchen. We called her “Tiny” and everyone loved her. She brought much joy to us all and we had over 40 different people visit us and her puppies. They went to good homes and after 3 years, Tiny went to live on a farm with a good home. At that time, we cried to let her go, because a young mum 18, from the community, who reached out for help with her newborn baby, came to live with us for the next 2 years.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?

My children always had pets growing up, and I wrote about them all in the book. (guinea pigs, fish, rabbits, rats/mice). We bought them a puppy for Christmas and called him Binky. I write about Binky in the book because we all loved him, and he grew up with my children. After I fell pregnant with my 5th child, we had to move home so my niece adopted Binky and cared for him into his old age.

 What are you reading now?

“The Invisible Girl” by Samantha Houghton

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I have been accepted to be part of a new book that will be released in April in the UK along with 13 other authors. I have to write 5,000 words about my life story, and the book has a working title “Courage: Dark to Light” and proceeds will go to Samaritans, who help people who have lost hope.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Anne Frank, because as a child I identified with her suffering and her courage touched and inspired me.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them.

We were very poor growing up, but I remember before Dad fell ill with lung cancer, we had a cat. I was only 5 at the time, but I remember he crawled under the washing machine and Mum had to clean the grease off him.

Whats your favorite book or movie that had an animal as a central character? Why?

It would have to be “Lassie.” I have very lovely memories of how beautiful and intelligent a dog could be.

What is your real life, funniest pet story?

There are so many, the stand out would be when “Tiny” was giving birth to her puppies and because she was so small, we all thought she would have about 3. After the 6th and then 7th were born, we were all laughing at the wonder and joy of life.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know?

I have always loved reading and writing but never in a million years thought I would ever write my autobiography.

What’s in your “To Be Read” (TBR) pile right now? And how many TBR piles do you have?

Mainly educational and biographies are on my Goodreads list. I know that I will never have time to read them all but the next book is “One nation under Therapy” by Christina Hoff Summers.

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?

Market and build an interested base around your book about a year before it is published. Connect with people who read your genre, and like-minded authors.

Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why?

My dining room table, perhaps because I feel comfortable in my kitchen and also because it was my mum’s table for 30 years.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?

Read the fine print. Be brave and never give up.

What is one lesson you learned about writing or publishing that youd like to share?

I learned that there is nothing to fear and that people love inspiring stories.

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Welcome, Christopher Tubbs!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome author Chris Tubbs to the blog!

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I was born in Dorset in England. My ancestors going back before the 1500’s were all clay miners. My day job is to represent an American Software company in Europe and to promote their products. That means I get to speak at loads of conferences and exhibitions as an industry veteran. But my secret love had always been military history. I am a firm believer that all the major advances in technology have been fueled by conflict. Add to that a healthy interest in reading sci fi and sci fantasy and you see that I am leaning towards historical fiction with a twist. My favorite period is the late 18th century moving into the 19th as that was when the basis of our lives now was laid down.  I write on average an hour a day on planes, in airports (I travel a lot)  or at home. My pets (I have two dogs and two cats) are a central part of my life so its only natural that one or two sneak into my writing.

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?

I have two Dutch Shepherds; Zeeva a nine year old female and Blaez a one year old male  and two cats;  Vaskr a male Norwegian Forest Cat, and Caja a female British Longhair.  We try to choose names that reflect the personalities of the animals or something in their history so Zeeva is Hebrew for She-Wolf and Blaez  is old Breton for Wolf as they are basically as close to a wolf as you can get in a domestic dog. Vaskr is old Norse for Gallant as he is a bit of a hero and Caja is Spanish for cash as she cost a fortune.

Blaez gets into the Dorset Boy series as pet of our hero Marty. He follows him through his  adventures in the Navy and as an agent for British Intelligence.  He saves our hero’s life a number of times. Maybe I will find a place for the others in later books but it will have to make sense in the plot line.

What are you reading now?

Maybe surprisingly for some I am reading fantasy. I think that reading traditional Naval Historical fiction novels right now would constrain my thinking but reading fantasy actually frees me up to explore plot lines and situations that you wouldn’t expect.  I don’t want my stories to follow Hornblower or Aubery but to do their own thing. I am reading Linsey Hall and M.D. Massey at the moment, their books have good pace and don’t skimp on the violence.  I have read all the big Naval History authors in the past but for now they are on hold.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I am working on book three of the Dorset Boy Series. The first, A Talent for Trouble, covers our hero leaving the Dorset Clay mines, to joining the Navy as a cabin boy then making a name for himself at the Siege of Toulon where he rescues a beautiful Contessa and her family earning him the interest to become a Midshipman.  The second, The Special Operations Flotilla, sees him being sucked into the world of British Intelligence and becoming a founder member of the SOF.  He discovers Blaez on a mission to save the Dutch crown jewels from the French.

Now I’m on book three, Agent Provocateur, and we are following our hero into an undercover mission to Paris where they have to try and disrupt the smooth running of the French revolutionary government not realizing he is walking right into the center of a coup d’Etat by Napoleon to take over France himself.

Who is your favorite author and why?

That’s a tough one. I really like the way Dewey Lambdin writes and I find myself re reading David Eddings’ fantasy books.  I also like Adam Hardy as he tries to be different and his hero is darker. But I am in awe of anyone who is successful and attracts a following.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them.

My first dog was a Jack Russel terrier called Spot who was bred as a ratter.  He had homicidal tendencies and was lethal to rats which was good as we lived in the middle of nowhere. My second dog was a black Labrador who’s pedigree name was Lord Fred of Salisbury but, as my little sister couldn’t say Salisbury, he ended up being called Saucy.  My father had a pub by then and Sauce would greet the lady customers by sticking his nose up their skirts. So Saucy by name saucy by nature.

How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing?

Blaez is a full character and he is part of the team as much as any other of Marty’s followers.  In fact he is featured more than some of the others.  He is bodyguard, scout and companion to Marty. He also lets him know who he can trust as dog’s instincts for that are far better than ours.  Dutchies are loyal, defensive, loving, all the things you expect from Shepherds.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I have had pets around me all my life and I can’t imagine a world, even on a ship without any. The other thing is it brings colour to a scene when a dog is in it and it can change the dynamic from what people expect as you can be as illogical as a dog.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

Our First Dutch Shepherd was Gus-Troy van Stavast  (Troy) and he was Blaez’s grandfather.  He was in the breeding program and he had already sired two litters. Then he was chosen by another breeder for their bitch Claire.  As it turned out Claire came into season about 2 days before we went on holiday and although she was ‘presented’ to Troy he knew it wasn’t the right time and wasn’t interested.  So we talked to the people who ran the kennel that all the animals were going into while we were away.  For some reason they got all excited by the prospect of having a conception in their kennels and agreed to let the breeder bring Claire to Troy there.  Well they set up a ’love nest’ and the deed was done in front of quite an audience cameras and all, but that didn’t stop my boy as he fathered 11 pups in that litter. He always was a show off

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know?

I always had a couple of stories going around in my head and I always told myself a story to get myself to sleep.  I was always quite active and didn’t sit still long enough to write but then a few years ago I suddenly developed arthritis and that slowed me down quit a bit.  Then one day I just fired up word on my laptop and wrote “You’re early again” said Miss Kate, the teacher at the school in Stoborough. It was a long walk for a twelve year old from Furzebrook to Stoborough through the heath, which was yellow with gorse flowers at the end of June.”  And that was it. I now write every day for at least an hour, my day job permitting.

What do your pets do when you are writing?

They try and climb on my lap as soon as I pick up my laptop but once we get over that Blaez lies at my feet and Zeeva is never far away.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?

The story is in you. Don’t be frightened of putting it on paper and giving it to someone else to read.  It is like exposing your soul but the satisfaction of having anyone read your story and enjoying it is unbelievable.

About Christopher

Christopher C. Tubbs is a descendent of a long line of Dorset clay miners and has chased his family tree back to the 16th century in the Isle of Purbeck. He has been a public speaker at conferences for most of his career in the Aerospace and Automotive industries and was one of the founders of a successful games company back in the 1990’s. Now in his fifties he finally got around to writing the story he had been dreaming about for years. Thanks to Inspiration from the great sea authors like Alexander Kent, Dewey Lambdin, Patrick O’Brian and Dudley Pope he was finally able to put digit to keyboard.

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Kitten Proofing: A Tough Job But Cat Owners Have to Do It

I’m constantly scouting my house for potential dangers for our two kittens, Harry and Hermione. They’re nearly six-months old and have been with us for three months since we adopted them from a shelter. In human years, they would probably be teenagers, but they act more like toddlers. They put everything in their mouths, so I try to keep the floors and carpets as spotless as possible. I check that there aren’t any exposed wires that they can chew on (no easy task in a household where computer devices are used daily). I block any area they can climb behind, under, or over where they might become stuck or hurt. I hide their toys when I’m not around if the toys have feathers or other dangerous parts they can ingest.

Kittens love to explore, but there are places in a house they shouldn’t go. Here’s Harry checking out my refrigerator.

It’s a tough task but kitten proofing a home is similar to childproofing one, something I haven’t done since my daughter was a baby 14 years ago. Like young children, kittens love to play and explore. They don’t understand the word “no,” or what will happen if they touch a hot or sharp object. And as in a recent close call with Harry and my husband’s mobility scooter, they can’t comprehend why it’s unsafe to walk behind something that’s moving.

Hermione on my husband’s motility scooter. Her brother Harry almost got hurt chasing it while it was moving.

Just like kids, kittens need to experience certain things to learn what’s safe and what isn’t, although you pray that they do so without getting harmed. A terrible story was posted on Facebook about a kitty that got into a food bin that automatically locked, sealing her in without air. My Harry was more fortunate when he nearly got stuck under the wheel of my husband’s mobility scooter and escaped with only a bad scare. His sister was present when it happened and heard his yowl. She got a scare, too. Now, when both kittens even catch a glimpse of my husband’s scooter, they run for the hills. He still has to watch that they aren’t behind him, but they are less likely to get in the way again.

Here are a few articles about kitten proofing for those with new fur babies:

http://www.meowcatrescue.org/resources/articles/13/kitten-proofing-your-home/

https://www.hillspet.com/cat-care/training/tips-for-kitten-proofing-your-home

https://www.thesprucepets.com/kitten-proof-your-home-552283

I’ve also featured a few videos with kitten and cat proofing tips on my character cat’s blog: https://wp.me/p7XcB0-y1

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Welcome, Debra Goldstein

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome mystery author, Debra Goldstein to the blog this week.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Judge, author, litigator, wife, step-mom, mother of twins, transplanted Yankee and civic volunteer are all words used to describe me. My writings are equally diverse. Although my novels are traditional mysteries with cozy elements, my short stories tend to be darker with unexpected twists. My non-fiction essays reflect emotional slices of life.

I am very excited about One Taste Too Many, the first of my new Sarah Blair cozy mystery series being published by Kensington. In One Taste, culinary challenged Sarah knows starting over after her divorce will be messy. Things fall apart completely when her ex drops dead, seemingly poisoned by her twin sister’s award-winning rhubarb crisp. Now, with her cat, RahRah, wanted by the woman who broke up her marriage and her sister wanted by the police for murder, Sarah needs to figure out the right recipe to crack the case before time runs out. Unfortunately, for a gal whose idea of good china is floral paper plates, catching the real killer and living to tell about it could mean facing a fate worse than death – being in the kitchen!

Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?

Presently, I don’t have any pets (unless you count my husband), but in the past, I’ve had dogs. Traits from our toy poodle and bichon frise find their way into book two, Two Bites Too Many, but my limited knowledge of animals beyond dogs was a definite problem when I decided I wanted a cat to play a major role in the Sarah Blair mystery series. I remedied my lack of familiarity with cats by contacting a friend who has a very special Siamese cat, Suri. Suri’s behavior, tricks, and even appearance became the model for my absolute favorite cat, RahRah.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?

One of the main characters in the Sarah Blair mystery series is RahRah the cat. Sarah married at eighteen, divorced by twenty-eight and in doing so swapped a luxury lifestyle for a cramped studio apartment and a job as a law firm receptionist. The only thing she can show for the past decade is her feisty Siamese cat, who previously belonged to her ex’s mother. Knowing RahRah already probably spent one of his nine lives when he was rescued, as a kitten from a hurricane’s floodwaters, Sarah is very protective of RahRah – when she isn’t wishing she could have the resilience and confidence he has. Basically, RahRah owns the world.

What writing projects are you currently working on?

One Taste Too Many is the first of at least three Sarah Blair mysteries. I’m doing final edits on the second book, Two Bites Too Many, and am writing the third book, Three Treats Too Many. In my spare time, I’ve been writing short stories. Several of them will be published in 2019 including The Dinner Gift, which won an award in the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable competition, Harvey and the Red HeadThe Eyes of Texas anthology, and Nova, Capers, and a Schmear of Cream CheeseFishy Business, an anthology compiled by the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them.

The earliest pet I remember having was a goldfish won at a school carnival. Sadly, it barely survived the transfer from its plastic bag to a small bowl. After a proper mourning period, my parents bought me three miniature turtles. I named them Turk, Dirk, and Lurk – perhaps a sign of the mystery bent my writing career would take. Later, we added a grey miniature poodle, Lord Silver Mist (Misty) to the family menagerie.

How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing?

I believe animals have true personalities and impact the lives of everyone in a household. Consequently, when I use an animal in my writing, as I do with RahRah in the Sarah Blair mystery series, the animal must be a fully developed character. I want the reader to enjoy the animal’s behavior and interaction with the human characters, not simply be a reference to a cat or dog because the book or story has cozy elements. For me, the interaction between animals and humans can provide the impetus to move the story forward, be an instance of comic relief, or simply serve to illustrate another character’s personality. RahRah does all of these things at different points in One Taste Too Many.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

I include animals in my writing because they allow me show, rather than tell, the reader about different aspects of the other characters’ personalities. For example, if a fussy animal rubs against the leg of a seemingly tough character, but the character unconsciously bends and pets the animal, we realize the tough guy has a soft side. My animals also create or dissipate tension through dramatic or comedic moments. Finally, I use animals because I like them.

What’s your favorite book or movie that had an animal as a central character? Why?

My favorite book with an animal as a prominent character is One Taste Too Many because after living with it for the past year, I’m partial to it. Bambi is the movie with a central animal character that had a lasting impact on me because of its plot twists, but those twists are what keeps me from using the word “favorite” with it.

 Bambi was the first movie I ever saw in a theater. I was three years old and the movie was a treat my father took me to because my parents had recently brought home this thing they called my sister. I’m not sure if they wanted me to have one on one time with a parent or simply thought it a good idea to get me out of the house because every time they asked me to help by handing them something for the baby, I threw it at her – don’t worry, we are very close now. Although I still smile when I think of Bambi and Thumper, the animals, the scenes when Bambi’s mother was killed and where the fire spread through the forest were so powerful they made a lasting impression on me. I watched the movie again as an adult and was again disturbed by those scenes, but now I understood them from a writer’s perspective. Each was a major plot point change where tension and conflict occurred. For a writer, Bambi is an excellent lesson in how to effectively manipulate the emotions of a viewer or reader.

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?

When I first started writing, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I thought getting the story in my head on paper was all I had to do. I wish I had known more about the business side – agents, publishers, distribution, marketing, social media usage, and personal platforms. It has been a steep learning curve. The other thing I wish I knew when I started writing is how wonderful and supportive other writers would prove to be.

Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why?

My favorite place to read or write is in an oversized club chair that my mother had made for my father for their first anniversary. My father wasn’t a big person, but he had long legs. She ordered the chair built with an extra two inches of length in the seat and plenty of back support. For years, my father used that chair to read the paper and watch television. When he wasn’t home, my sister and I used the arms of that chair as our imaginary horses and by covering it with a blanket, we often made it our tent or covered wagon.

When my father died, the chair, for the next decade, became the one my mother curled up in when she wanted to read or visit with any of her kids or grandchildren. If I was visiting, I’d wait for her to go to bed and then sneak into the chair to read or write. It just felt right. When my mother died, other than some art work, there was only one piece of furniture I insisted on shipping from California to Alabama. Today, the chair sits in my bedroom. I use it to read and write and our grandchildren have discovered how wonderful its arms are for make believe.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?

Do it! Passion should never be ignored.

About Debra

One Taste Too Many is the first of Kensington’s new Sarah Blair cozy mystery series by Agatha and Anthony nominated Judge Debra H. Goldstein. Her prior books include Should Have Played Poker and 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue. Debra’s short stories have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Weekly. She is president of Sisters in Crime’s Guppies, serves on Sinc’s national board, and is vice-president of SEMWA.

 

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Find out more about her writings at www.DebraHGoldstein.com , on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/DebraHGoldsteinAuthor/ , or on Twitter @DebraHGoldstein.

One Taste Too Many is available in print and e-book from Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Taste-Many-Sarah-Blair-Mystery/dp/1496719476 ), Barnes & Noble (https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/one-taste-too-many-debra-h-goldstein/1128297322?ean=9781496719478#/ ) and your local indie bookstores.

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3 Things to Do Before Bringing Home Your First Pet by Jessica Brody

Please welcome Jessica Brody to Pens, Paws, and Claws. She’s our guest blogger this weekend about bringing home your first pet.

Becoming a pet owner is one of the most rewarding things you can do. Dogs and cats are especially lovely creatures, providing endless companionship and unconditional love. Of course, caring for another life comes with its fair share of hefty responsibilities — there are several things that need to be done before you even bring them home! Check out these preparation tips so you can ensure the successful adoption and a happy life with your new friend.

 Research Pet Types Carefully

 Try not to fall for the first adorable pet that catches your eye. It’s important that your lifestyle meets the needs of the particular animal or breed you choose, so do your research before making a decision. To start, you’ll want to consider a few important questions.

        How much space do you have in your home and yard?

       Can you handle pet hair, unpleasant messes, and possible damage to your belongings?

       Do you have any allergies?

       How much time do you have to spend playing with and training a pet?

       What activities do you intend to do with them?

       Do you have the financial stability to support veterinary bills?

 Some dog breeds, like Shih Tzus, are better suited for apartment living and owners who work long hours. Others, like Dalmatians, love to exercise and are great companions for avid runners or hikers. In general, cats require less attention than dogs and tend to fit into various living situations, though they will still need space to roam around. If you just don’t have much room at all, aim for something in a cage or tank, like a fish.

 Get Your Home Ready

 Pets aren’t all fun and games — they’re a lot of work, too! Prepare your home ahead of time so you can keep up with the cleaning and avoid accidents. If you’re getting a cat, remember that litter boxes need to be cleaned on a daily basis. Consider investing in a self-cleaning litter box to make this task a little easier. Find the best options by checking out reviews on Cat Life Today.

 If you’re getting a puppy, look into comfortable crates and puppy pads to cut down on messy accidents during house training. No matter how careful you are, your pup is bound to have a few accidents inside. So, be prepared with cleaning products that prevent odors and stains from setting into your carpets or upholstery. You’ll also want to stock up on toys to keep your pet from unleashing their playful energy on your belongings. Dogster recommends pet-proofing your home with baby gates to keep your curious animals from exploring dangerous areas.

 Prepare a Gentle Welcome

Animals are very sensitive to change and can be uneasy in a new home for a few days. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to make your pet more comfortable. Cats are territorial and will benefit from a personal area, such as a laundry room or bathroom, where they can be alone now and again. Petfinder suggests creating a small enclosure in this area where your cat can hide away. You can purchase a covered cat bed for this or make your own hideaway by cutting a doorway out of a cardboard box.

 Rescue pets coming from the shelter may be even more nervous or scared in a new home. Give them space to explore your house and try to reduce the number of new people they meet during the first week or so. You’ll also want to stay close by to encourage your pet to bond with you and help them feel safe for their first days. Schedule your adoption on the weekend so you can spend two to three days with them. Additionally, start your obedience training from day one to establish mutual respect and dependability between you and your pet as soon as possible.

 Owning a pet for the first time may be a bit scary, but you’ll quickly see why the majority of people consider their pets members of the family. Although they require a lot of time and money, they pay us back by increasing our happiness, encouraging us to exercise, reducing our stress, and providing endless support throughout our lives.

About Jessica Brody

I am a dog lover and creator of OurBestFriends.pet. I created the site to offer a place for animal lovers to share their favorite pet photos and stories about their furry pals. I believe dogs are the best creatures on earth. I enjoy writing about and sharing photos of dogs (and other pets!) on my website.

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